Use a standard 52 deck without jokers. For 2-3 players use 1 deck; 4-7 players use 2 decks; 8-11 players use 3 decks.

The values of the cards are Aces=1, 2-10 at face value, Kings wild (may be used in any position), and the Queens & Jacks are garbage with no value. These values correspond to the position they will take on the table in front of each player. As play continues, the next-highest value card will become garbage for any player who completed their previous round.


Be the first player to complete 10 rounds, making the entire deck garbage to them. To complete a round, replace all face-down cards with a face-up card of the correct value for its position.


In the first round of this game, the Queens and Jacks are “garbage” as in unplayable. As you finish each round, some players will have more unplayable, turn-ending cards, increasing the “garbage” and making success more difficult.


For the first round, every player receives 10 cards face-down. Arrange the cards into an array, so all players know the card positions from 1 to 10.

Depending on your playing space, or the fewer cards of later rounds, all players may agree on a different arrangement.

After dealing the 10 cards to each player, place the remaining cards in a draw pile, and turn up 1 card from the top to seed the discard pile.


First player is dealer’s left. To begin a turn, the player may draw the top card from either the discard or draw pile. If the card’s value corresponds to a position that still contains a face-down card, the player replaces the face-down card with the drawn card. The replaced card is now playable in the same way. When the player is stuck holding “garbage” or an unplayable card, it must be discarded, ending that player’s turn.

A King is wild and may be played in any position. A King is the only face-up card that may be replaced by the correct-value card for its position.

Once a player has replaced all of their face-down cards with face-up cards of the correct values (or wild Kings), every other player gets one more turn before the round is over.

Any player who completes the replacement of all their cards for the round is dealt 1 fewer cards in the next round. For example, after round 1, any players who turned up all 10 cards will only be dealt 9 cards in the next round, and their position values are 1-9 instead of 1-10. In that case, the 10 also becomes unplayable garbage.


The first player to have no cards left and get up from this “garbage” game is the winner. If the players agree to end the game early, the player who would have the fewest cards dealt at the beginning of the next round is the winner.


UPDATE: New and improved Double-Pinochle Guide and Score Cards for quick, compact reference you can fold up and tuck with your cards.

Check out this Pinochle Guide (PDF) – print it out and fold it into fourths for a handy reference and scorecard during the game.

To play Pinochle, you need 2 teams of 2 that sit across each other, and the goal is to be the first team to 150 points. If both teams reach 150 in the same round, the bidding team wins the game. Here is the basic flow of a round:

  1. Deal & Bid. All cards go to all players, in set of 3 at a time. Dealer is required to start bidding with minimum bid of 25.
  2. Pass Cards. Bid winner declares trump. Their partner passes them 3 cards. The bid-winner then passes 3 back. The non-bidding team does not pass any cards.
  3. Meld. Show your cards that create melds. See the scoring guide linked above for a list of possible meld points. Record the totals of both teams’ meld points. Put your cards back into your hand — they should not be shown during play.
  4. Play. Bid winner leads the first trick. Cards are ranked in value A, 10, K, Q, J, 9. You must play-to-kill. If possible, you must follow lead suit, then trump, before a non-trump off-suit. Each A, 10, & K card is worth 1 point. Another 1 point is given to the team that takes the final trick, for a total of 25 points in play. Record the totals of both teams’ play points.
  5. Score. Add points from melds and play to both teams’s scores. Instead of adding any points, both teams may have a “set” penalty conditions:
    • If the bid-winning team did not make their bid with the total of the meld and play points in the round, they have “set” and must subtract their bid from their current score.
    • If the other team did not take any tricks in the round, they have “set” and receive a score of 0 for the round (they do not get their meld points).

The quickest way to learn pinochle is to play using an app that provides hints. The app developer FishDog makes one for iTunes and Android. This app has a light-bulb icon for hints during play, and you can adjust the game settings with lots of variants. Double-check the scoring guide against the settings of the game.

Much like Pitch, Pinochle has a great many variants. When playing with a new group, it is a good idea to list out a cheat sheet of all the possible meld points, and also confirm play-to-kill rules.


Setup: Players should choose or be randomly assigned partners. Use 1 standard playing card deck, but you may choose to use 2 decks with 8+ players. Be sure that you are using a table or other play area where all players can reach the center.

Objective: In each round, 1 partner should obtain 4 of a kind, and the OTHER partner should declare “Kemps!” The losing teams in each round receive a penalty letter from the word KEMPS. After one of the teams spells the entire word “KEMPS,” the team with the fewest letters wins.

Signals: After selecting partners, each team should privately choose their signal for how to NONVERBALLY tell their partner that they have 4 of a kind. You may also use meaningless signals to confuse other players, but you may not choose extra signals with meaning–this would be considered “table talk” and cheating. After each round, everyone should get up for a social break and a chance to choose new signals. Refresh drinks/snacks, take a restroom break and/or optionally choose a new signal with your partner.

Round of Play: Everyone plays all at once, so it’s important to respect the timing of the deals.

  1. Every player should receive 4 cards for their hand, and everyone should look at their cards right away.
  2. After everyone gets their hand, 4 more cards are dealt face-up to the center of the table. If you have a felt-top table or pad available, you may want to deal them “flop” style (
  3. As soon as the fourth card is placed face-up, players may reach to swap cards between the table and their own hand. Players do not take turns with this. First touch, first take! Also watch your partner!
  4. Continue swapping until no one wants the 4 cards remaining face up on the table. Add those cards to a “discard” pile.
  5. Deal 4 more cards and repeat steps 3-4. The round is over when one of these conditions is met:
    • A player declares “KEMPS” because they believe their partner has 4 of a kind. If their partner does indeed have 4 of a kind, then all other teams receive a letter. If their partner does NOT have 4 of a kind, then they are penalized with the letter.
    • A player declares “STOP KEMPS” because they believe another team has 4 of a kind. If the other team does indeed have 4 of a kind, then that team is penalized with a letter for being too slow with their own “KEMPS” declaration. If the other team does NOT have 4 of a kind, the player who declared “STOP KEMPS” is penalized with the letter for their team.
    • A “real deal” occurs when the draw pile is exhausted with no one declaring “KEMPS” or “STOP KEMPS” before the dealer runs out of sets of 4 cards to play to the center. No one is penalized with a letter for that round, and the same dealer deals again.
  6. When the round is over according to the possible conditions in step five, write down or use tokens to track the letter penalties. Check whether a team has completed the word “KEMPS” to end the game. If not, choose a new dealer to start a new round.

Hints: Choose simple signals (e.g. head nod, setting down cards, footsie under the table, turn your ring down, or a wink), and be sure to check for those signals at least every time the center cards are swept to the “discard” pile. Observe the other teams carefully to determine if they are looking for the same value cards that you are, and also to see if you can figure out their signals. You can confuse the other teams by using fake signals and/or swapping cards that you don’t actually need to complete your 4 of a kind.

More Info:

Fan Tan

This game and its variants might also be known as Sevens, Stops, or Parliament.

Objective: Be the first player to get rid of all your cards. Take the pot!

Setup: For 3-6 players with 1 standard deck. Randomly select a dealer to deal out all the cards to players. Since the amount of cards may not be even, players with 1 fewer card than others should add a chip to the pot.

Betting: Ante up! If you are in the round, you owe 1 chip to the pot before play begins. Any time you cannot play on your turn, add another 1 chip to the pot.

Play: Starting with the player left of the dealer, and continuing clockwise, play one card. If you cannot, add a chip to the pot instead. If you can play, you must play. You may start a suit with a seven, or you may build off an existing 7 or the same suit in sequential order up or down. If you run out of chips, you must finish playing cards in the current round but you cannot win.

Example: In the game below, Player 4 has won the pot by being the first to get rid of all his cards.

“Sevens” Variant Scoring: Instead of using chips to bet, simply count your remaining cards at the end of each round. These “points” are your score for the round. Keep a running total of all players’ points. When a player reaches 100 points, the game is over, and the winner is the player with the fewest points.

“Parliament” Drinking Game: Every time you would add a chip to the pot, take a drink!

Two Players: Deal 8 cards to a discard pile before dealing the remaining cards all out to both players. Use 15 chips in a betting variant.



Before the new baby arrives, Abby will be hosing Feb 6, and we’ll play non-standard-deck games.

First up is Fluxx, a party game for any number of players. There are 4 types of cards in a basic Fluxx game: New Rules, Actions, Goals, and Keepers. Most of the time, winning the game is about having the correct Keepers for the current Goal. It’s as simple as that!

If we have time for more games, we could also play Phase 10, Skip-Bo, Rook, The Oregon Trail Card Game, Guillotine, or other specialty card games available on Abby’s game shelf.

Pitch (10 point)

Edit: This is also our January Game! We played it on January 9 at Barb’s house, and we’ll play one more time January 23 at Connie’s house.

Our December game is 10-point Pitch! On December 5th we will play at Sandi F’s.

This video provides a good overview and sample game:

The only difference to note is the distinction between the high and low joker. Instead of marking the cards, the first joker played in a round is the high joker. The other is the low joker.

For convenience, here is the list of point cards from the trump suit in rank order:

Jick (other Jack same color as trump)
High Joker (first Joker played in round)
Low Joker
Three (counts for 3 points)
Two (kept by who plays it)

Despite not being point cards, the King and the Queen do outrank the Jack for taking tricks.

Depending on how many people are at the meeting, we may need to play a 6-person variant. The big difference is how the cards are dealt. With six players, deal out 8 to each player. After bidding, the winner of the bid may look through the extra 6 cards before declaring trump. The bid winner is the only person who gets to draw from those extra cards, and everyone must still discard down to 6 for playing.

Texas Hold ‘Em

At Cheryl’s we learned and Texas Hold ‘Em, and we’ll play again at Ginny‘s house on Nov 21.

If you would like to learn by watching, here are 6 full games of Celebrity Poker Showdown, which aired on Bravo back in 2004. Each video is about 90 minutes. You can see a tournament-style game with players of varying skill levels, and the season finale (episode 6) has the 5 winners from the previous episodes. If you are only going to watch one of them, this is the one to watch!

  • Season 4 Episode 1: Christopher Meloney, Matthew Perry, Stephen Root, Sarah Silverman, Michael Vartan
  • Season 4 Episode 2: Bobby Cannavale, Tony Hawk, Cheryl Hines, Dennis Rodman, Ryan Stiles
  • Season 4 Episode 3: Macaulay Culkin, Neil Flynn, Sara Gilbert, Ricki Lake, Kevin Nealon
  • Season 4 Episode 4: Chevy Chase, Donny Deutsch, Shannon Elizabeth, Kathy Griffin, Neil Patrick Harris
  • Season 4 Episode 5: Dave Navarro, Emily Procter, Angela Basset, Jeff Garlin, Mekhi Phifer
  • Season 4 Episode 6: Championship Game featuring the previous 5 winners!

Looking for a quick run-down of the rules without watching hours of TV?

Let’s start with the hands: Here is the 2-minute explanation of how poker hands are ranked:

Then here’s another, even shorter video, about the basics of gameplay, including betting, for Texas Hold ‘Em:

We had some exciting hands at Cheryl’s on Nov 7, including some split pots (perfect tie hands!) like these:

Split Pot - Straight with Kings


In many card games, a round of play consists of some number of “tricks” where each player presents 1 card. Then, by some criteria, 1 player will “take” the trick.

The first person to play in a trick “leads” the trick. Usually, this person chooses a suit that must be followed or trumped. In that case, the following players must, if they can, play a card from the same suit as the leading card. This may be referred to as the “lead suit” of the trick. If the player cannot play the lead suit or the trump suit, then they may play a “slough” card, which is guaranteed not to take the trick.

In some games (as in up the river), the rules will specify that you do NOT need to “play to kill” and that may mean that you do not have to follow suit or play trump before sloughing cards. In those games, cleverly sloughing cards is a winning strategy.

Once all players have presented their card for the trick, the person who takes the trick is usually the person who has the largest value trump suit or the largest value lead suit.

Taking the trick may be generally desirable to gain points (as in pitch), or it may be generally undesirable (as in hearts).

Typically, the number of cards dealt to each player’s hand is the number of tricks in the round, and there may be multiple rounds of play.

Play to Kill

The “Play to Kill” mechanic is common in trick-taking games, although it may have slightly different meanings. In general, play-to-kill is a rule where you must try to win the trick if possible.

Play-to-kill is frequently required for games with trump suits. In this case, there is typically a lead suit for each trick, and you must play the lead suit if you can. However, if you do not have a card in the lead suit, but you do have a card in the trump suit, then you must play a card of the trump suit. Additionally, if you have a card that will take the trick, you must play it regardless of whether you have other cards that meet the usual play criteria but would not take it. This is the way play-to-kill works in Pinochle.

Related Term: A “slough” is a play that is guaranteed NOT to take the trick at the time you play it.

In poker, you may see a “Kill Hand” triggered, which forces some lucky player to make a large blind bet. This mechanism is intended to curb reckless betting that wins by pure luck. As a group, we will not implement “Kill Hands” in our poker games until we are all experienced enough to unanimously agree on the need. If you wish to read more about this particular poker mechanic, you can do so at Wikipedia.